News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Six-month ban on maids, servants, drivers scrapped

ABU DHABI — 17 June:Lt-Gen Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior, has issued a ministerial decree scrapping the six-month ban on housemaids and those in their category. According to an official source at the ministry, the decision, which will be implemented with immediate effect, applies to farmers, drivers and other workers in the category sponsored by inividuals, mainly UAE nationals.

“Housemaids, drivers, farmers, servants and other workers sponsored by individuals need not worry about the six-month ban. They can leave the country and return without any problems,” the source told your favourite No 1 newspaper Khaleej Times yesterday. Residence visa for this category is issued directly by the residence and naturalisation departments.

Earlier, the six-month ban, imposed by the authorities on those falling under the Labour Ministry, was also scrapped. This new move has done away with the six-month ban on all categories, except those sentenced by court.


Govt depts not serious about emiratisation: Labour official

DUBAI — 17 June:The percentage of UAE nationals in the Federal Government sector dropped to 35.1 per cent in 2005 as against 39.8 per cent in the preceding year (2004).

The sharp 4.7 per cent decline in the number of civil servants from UAE has prompted the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia) to call upon ministries and federal organisations and departments to revise their Emiratisation plans.

“The Studies and Research Centre recently conducted a field and statistical research on the number of UAE nationals working in the government sector and arrived at the conclusion that there has been a general decline in the number of UAE white collar workers, according to Dr Khalid Al Khazraji, under-secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who is also acting director-general of Tanmia.

The total number of employees in federal government departments, however, had risen 20 per cent during 2004-2005, but without any proportional increase in the number of UAE nationals, Al Khazraji observed.

The imbalance was brought into sharp focus by the rising number of expatriate workers in the different federal and local government sectors, he said and conjectured that the absence of a fully integrated strategy of Emiratisation could be to blame.

Such a strategy was almost non-existent and, where present, rather unclear,  almost not existing, and if found by some people, on institutions level, it is unclear, Al Khazraji said. Any improvement on the Emiratisation front could at best be seen as attempts to "throw dust in the eyes", he said.

Localisation of jobs was too fragmented and sporadic a process to bear an impact, he said. “Problems with the Emiratisation drive and the fall in the number of nationals in government departments is no longer confined to the private sector but has also started creeping into the Federal Government sector."

On the reasons for the negative picture, he said, was retirement at an early age,  which many nationals had resorted to over the previous two years. A great number of UAE citizens had quit government posts and opted to start business after availing bank loans, he observed.

Citizens who abandoned their government jobs did not avail the opportunity to make a good living out of the jobs they had got and had failed to live up to the aspirations and dreams of retired incumbents, Al Khazraji lamented and called on the youth of the country not to turn their backs on jobs in the private, federal or local sectors.

The continuation of the nation's youth in their jobs would enable the government to benefit from their faculties, especially the more qualified among of the lot, he said.

Those leaving their jobs in government departments had scant idea of the consequences, he said, calling on the government sector to expand the number of watchdog bodies to assess the condition of UAE nationals in government departments and to suggest measures to upgrade the standard of their performance and help them continue in their jobs.

The findings of the study conducted by Tanmia in a number of Federal Ministeries showed that the employment and human resources departments were not playing their roles to perfection, said Dr Khazraji and slammed the ‘Cadre 1 to 10’ formula as an upside-down solution.

“What compounded the problem of localization in different sectors is the rise in the foreign workforce which has come to substantially outnumber the nationals, so much so that there's just one national for every 10 expatriate employees in the country’s labour market.

It would be in the fitness of things if the ratio was inverted the other way round, with 10 nationals for every single expatriate, Dr Khazraji said.


Traffic departments nationwide to be linked electronically next month

Abu Dhabi: 17 June: Traffic and licensing departments nationwide will be electronically linked next month, allowing people to renew licences, register vehicles and pay fines at any traffic department in the country.

According to the Abu Dhabi Traffic and Patrols Department, work on the first phase of e-traffic system is completed.

The project to unify the traffic system of the country was launched under the directives of Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior.

According to traffic department sources, under the second phase the entire traffic and licensing procedures will be fully electronic with a wider network and database throughout the country. "This will also lead to electronically linking the network with traffic departments of GCC member countries, allowing the departments to transfer violation reports and allowing motorists to pay fines anywhere in the region," said a source.

He said the full implementation of e-traffic system will finally lead to a unified GCC traffic system.

The development plans, according to him, will also include increasing the number of fine payment machines in shopping malls, commercial areas, airports and other public places. Motorists can also pay their fines online in addition to checking number of violations and other cases online.

The Municipality and Agriculture Department of Abu Dhabi is already working on new road and traffic projects to meet current and future challenges in the capital.

According to a report, many proposals have been made to further improve the traffic flow of the city to avoid congestions in commercial areas as well as solve the growing problem of parking.

Projects: Improving signals and interchanges

Abu Dhabi Traffic and Patrols Department has launched various projects, including development and improvement of traffic lights and interchanges, for a smother traffic flow.

Traffic signals in the capital have already been fitted with timers alerting motorists that signals are about to change.


Tyres rented to pass fitness test for vehicle registration

Al Ain: 17 June: A secret tyre rental service is doing brisk business in Al Ain, helping customers get fitness certificates in order to renew vehicle registration.

This unique deal costs as little as Dh40 to customers who use popular cars such as Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, instead of spending big bucks on buying new tyres. A new set of tyres will cost upwards of Dh700.

The police, however, said the practice was illegal and dangerous, warning people not to do it.

"The law would take its own course if we find anyone entering in such deals with tyre sellers," said a traffic police official who requested anonymity.

He said the police have recently come to know about the involvement of some tyre merchants in this illegal rental business. "Action would be taken against such tyre sellers as well as people availing the service," he added.

The official said worn-out tyres could burst in hot weather and cause an accident. "Nobody has the right to put other road users' lives in danger for their greed," he said.

Egyptian Ahmad Al Alawi told Gulf News that some tyre sellers in Sanaiya (industrial area) district have been renting tyres to people who fear their cars will fail the examination due to old tyres.

"They have agents for bringing the customers and eluding the law-enforcing agencies," he said. He came to know about the practice when some agents contacted him but he refused to get tyres on rent.

"I believe it is wrong and risky. Why should I put my family and other road users' lives in danger for saving a few bucks?" Al Alawi said. The shopkeepers, when asked about the practice, refused to admit their involvement in it, saying that there could be some bad apples.

Mohammad Arshad, a Pakistani, said the tyre shops keep a deposit of Dh500 and change the tyres that are used but still in good condition.

After the passing of the vehicle the customers come back to the shop where the old tyres are refitted to the vehicle and the owner is charged with the rental fee.

"It is a very dangerous practice as worn out tyres may cause accident anytime in the hot environment," he said. He suggested that police and other law enforcement agencies should regularly visit the tyre shops and confiscate the used tyres.

According to police sources, about 20 per cent of accidents occur due to worn out and faulty tyres.

Film's music album launched at star-studded ceremony

Dubai: 17 June: Karan Johar's multi-starrer film, Kabhi Alvida Na Kaehna, is one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year and its music album was launched in a glittering function on the last day of IIFA Film Festival.

Attended by the many Bollywood personalities and the international media, this album launch was certainly one of the best organised events of the IIFA's Dubai-stint. Even though the function started a good half-an-hour late, the spirit in which it was carried off was fun to watch.

The album was launched by Amitabh Bachchan (who also stars in the film) and almost the entire cast of the film comprising Abhishek Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherjee and Kiron Kher was present on the dais.

Talking about his association with Karan Johar's Dharma Productions, the Big B reminisced about how he had starred in their first film Dostana and how Karan had ably carried forward his late father Yash Johar's legacy. He commented that Dharma Productions is at par with any good international film production house.

The songs of this album are composed by composers Shankar, Ehsan and Loy and written by lyricist Javed Akhtar the same team that made the popular music of Johar's last production, Kal Ho Na Ho.

Composer Ehsan said: "We have tried to make the best music that we could and we hope that it would be appreciated by the people." Talking about the star cast, Shankar Mahadevan said: "With such great talent associated with this project, what more could we ask for inspiration?"

According to Loy Mendonsa, the music here is about "Love and lots of tears". Praising the music, lyricist Akhtar said: "Shankar, Ehsan and Loy composed such beautiful tunes that the album represents the most aesthetic fusion of Indian and Western music."


Residents upset about pharmacy regulations

Dubai: 17 June: Some residents are questioning regulations prohibiting pharmacists from dispensing medication according to doctors' prescriptions, which may be less or more than the amount packaged.

UAE pharmacists are not allowed to open packages and sell prescription medicine by tablet, according to the amount prescribed by doctors a common practice employed in other countries.

Sujesh Sugunan, a sales executive at a company in Deira, told Gulf News that he recently had to purchase a whole box of antibiotics, which contains enough tablets for a five-day course, although his prescription was for three days.

"The medicine is not cheap and I have to buy more than I need," he said.

He added that the unused medicine was a waste of money and also posed a threat at home, where children might get their hands to it.

A pharmacist operating in Bur Dubai told Gulf News that he has had to refuse a few customers who asked to purchase part of a medicine. "I cannot open the packaging. My hands are tied," he said.

Health officials told Gulf News that the regulations were in place for good reason. Most say that pharmacists should not have the discretion to dispense medicine according to need, even if prescribed by a doctor.

Dr Eisa Al Mansoori, director of the drug control department at the Ministry of Health, told Gulf News that the regulations were there to protect the consumer.

"Prescription medicines come in certain dosages. Pharmacists cannot open the packages and split the medicine because it will affect the price," he said.

He added that the packaging also ensures that the prescription medicine sold was genuine and not counterfeit.

Dr Ali Al Sayed Hussain, director of pharmaceuticals department at the Dubai Department of Health and Medical Services (Dohms), said the prohibition also protected the public from consuming expired medicine.

"When the strips are cut the information regarding the expiry date is lost in one part. The health of the patient is affected since the medicine may be consumed after the expiry date," he said.

He added the question of unused portions rarely rose as drugs in the UAE are packaged according to the recommended dosage.

However, the regulations are not the same everywhere in the UAE. Dr Mohammad Abu Al Khair, drug consultant with the Abu Dhabi General Authority for Health Services (GAHS) told Gulf News that pharmacists have the discretion to dispense medicine depending on the circumstances.


Nurse jailed for newborn's death during delivery

Abu Dhabi: 17 June: A nurse will serve three months in jail and pay Dh100,000 as blood money after she caused the accidental death of a newborn during delivery, a court has confirmed.

The nurse, identified as M.S., was attending the woman during the delivery at an Al Dhaid hospital.

According to the medical report, the delivery was difficult due to medical complications.

The nurse asked the couple to perform a caesarean but they refused. The nurse used forceps and suction usually used during normal deliveries. According to the court, the nurse used the forceps more than once to force the baby out and the use of the forceps and suction caused the baby to bleed to death.

Sharjah Court of First Instance accused M.S. of malpractice and sentenced her to three months in jail and ordered her to pay Dh100,000 as blood money.

Federal Supreme Court turned down M.S.' appeal.

Pimps turn informants to combat sex trafficking

Dubai: 17 June: Resident Filipinos, who were caught trafficking Filipinas to work as prostitutes in the UAE, are being sought to work as informants for Philippine authorities here, part of a strategy to combat sex trafficking, diplomatic sources have revealed.

Women from the Philippines are sometimes trafficked to the Middle East and other regions for sexual exploitation, according to the 2006 US Human Trafficking Report.

The Philippine Consulate General said flesh peddlers are told to cooperate by informing officials of sex trade activities or face legal action under the strategy.

Antonio Curameng, the consul general, told Gulf News that so far the consulate has recruited one alleged pimp, a Filipina, to become an informant for the authorities.

"She signed an affidavit promising not to do it again, and to cooperate with us by informing us of any sex trafficking activity," he said.

He said because the woman has a history in the flesh trade, she would be able to help the consulate root out other sexual traffickers in the UAE and the Philippines.

He added that information was the most vital component in any strategy.

"She knows everything there is about the trade and she can help us with her knowledge," he said.

"In other cases, the victims were too afraid of a backlash if they identified the culprits." At least ten women, who were brought into the UAE to work as prostitutes, have been repatriated since January, according to the consulate.

Curameng said the pimp was caught when her two victims escaped and sought help from the Consulate. The women, who wished to be identified only as Ann and Tina, arrived in the UAE on visit visas in March, thinking they would be working in a hotel.

"One woman [back home] told me, if you want, there is work waiting for you in Dubai. They promised me a job as a receptionist or waitress, but it wasn't the truth," said Ann, a 25-year old single mother from Laguna.

Instead, she said they were taken to a villa, where they were forced to have sex with men for money. Ann added that they were held in the house for two months before escaping.

Curameng said unfortunately, such stories were all too common. He said the cases highlighted the dangers of job-seeking on a visit visa, which was one of the ways criminals use to bring women in for prostitution.

Reaction: Community leaders unhappy with decision

Some Filipino community leaders are less than thrilled that the consulate is choosing to turn sexual traffickers into informants, rather than turning them over for prosecution.

"I don't agree. They should act, they should prosecute these people," said Cyrine Pinpin, president of Migrante-UAE, a Filipino workers advocacy group. "Otherwise, they will just continue [bringing women in] and the consulate will have to keep on sending victims home," she added.

The group is actively involved in combating the flesh trade, channelling appeals for help from victims to the appropriate authorities.


e-Gate system at all entry and exit points planned

ABU DHABI — 17 June: The Ministry of Interior has hammered out a plan to introduce the electronic gate system at all the land and sea entry and exit checkpoints after being applied at a number of the country's airports.

According to Brigadier Ahmed Al Raisi, Director of the Central Operations Department at the Abu Dhabi General Police Directorate, the new system is expected to be enforced in Al Ain and Ras Al Khaimah airports by the end of July.

In Sharjah, he said, the system will be applicable by end of September due to the improvement works, which are on-going in the airport. The number of electronic gates will be increased in all the country's entry and exit check points, thus reducing the number of passports officers at the airports to the easy moving and convenience of the outgoing and incoming passengers, he noted.

Brigadier Al Raisi said the system is very safe as it has contributed to solve the problem of the identical names, which rarely occur. Elaborating, he said in solving the problem in which names are resembled, the system depends, besides the particulars of the person, on the fingerprints, which differ from person to another. Moreover it is linked to the unified database, he said.

The number of persons who obtained the electronic cards in Abu Dhabi alone stood at 2,500 and 2,000 in Dubai, he recalled.

The system will evoke big response from many companies and individuals after being applicable in other airports of the country. UAE is the first Arab country to apply the system, he said adding that it is very precise and safe for no person other than the e-card holder could use it.

The system is part of the Ministry of Interior strategy, which is keen to keep in line with the latest and future technology, saves time and makes effort less cumbersome to the passengers, he added.


UAE experts say property prices have yet to peak

Dubai - 17 June: Dubai’s property boom is two years away from its peak and is showing no signs of a slowdown, top developers and lenders have said.

Despite fears of a correction, new legislation this year and limited supply mean that real estate prices are set to keep rising, according to some of Dubai’s top players.

And demand for properties shows no signs of abating, said Mohammed Ali Al Hashimi, Chief Executive Officer of Amlak Finance, the city’s biggest mortgage-only lender.

“I don’t agree we are at the peak of the current property cycle.We are nowhere near the peak,” Al Hashimi said emphatically. “We need double of what we have.The leadership vision is clear.

“The bulk of the money [fuelling property growth] is coming from financiers who perform due diligence. If they feel the quality of their investment is acceptable, then current prices are not inflated. This means there is still future growth possible in prices,” added Al Hashimi.

All markets – whether property, stocks, interest rates or commodities – experience the boom-to-bust cycle, which helps savvy investors maximise gains or minimise losses.

Hussain Sajwani, Chairman of Damac Properties, the emirate’s largest privately owned developer, said: “Dubai has a unique situation. This real estate cycle will be longer than earlier ones, or the cycles in other markets, because Dubai does not depend on local demand alone.

“Dubai is like a home or second home for the upper middle classes from the GCC, Iran, Iraq, India, Pakistan and even Russia,” said Sajwani.

“It is a hub for five billion people looking for a better lifestyle than they can get for their money back home.” The last peak in property rates, said Elaine Jones, Chief Executive of Dubai-based property services company Asteco, “would have been in the middle-to-late 1990s”.

Assuming an eight-year cycle, rates should be at their peak about now.

“However, the Dubai leadership has ensured that it creates new impetus that prolong the boom part of the cycle.We are still in a seller’s market,” said one analyst.

The summer of 2002, when foreigners were given the right to own property in certain enclaves through the promulgation of the freehold law “was the first impetus”, he added.

“Four years later, in March this year, the land registration law was codified.

“And in between, an economic situation is being created that is actively promoting growth and demand.

“All this is expected to prolong the demand curve for Dubai property,” he said.


Emirates Post’s stamps to make you millionaire

DUBAI — 17 June: Emirates Marketing and Promotions (EMP), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Emirates Post, has teamed up with The Millionaire Co. to launch a unique initiative that will make philately more than just a hobby.

Golden and Platinum Millionaire is a campaign being organised under the aegis of Emirates Post and EMP, with The Millionaire Co. as the sole distribution and marketing agency.

With the launch of Golden and Platinum Millionaire at Deira City Centre on June 19, people buying the limited edition golden and platinum stamp packs stand a chance to become millionaires.

Making a reference to EMP's previous campaigns, Abdulla Al Daboos, chairman of EMP and director-general of Emirates Post, observed, "Over the past two years, we have successfully conducted Postcard Millionaire, a campaign that has 'changed lives'. Through the campaign, we were able to reach out to a certain audience to develop a better understanding of the UAE's postal services. The Golden and Platinum Millionaire campaign will help us reach out to yet another segment of our target audience."

The stamps being made available under the scheme have been specially selected with the objective of showcasing the UAE's heritage, culture and environment. In a Golden Millionaire pack, for example, one may find a Desert Plants series in the UAE collection, while the Environmental Protection series could be found in Platinum Millionaire packs.

“Golden and Platinum Millionaire limited edition stamp packs are valued at Dh500 and Dh1,000 respectively,” said Ahmed Tahlak, CEO, EMP. Winners in the gold series draw will receive a grand prize of Dh500,000 in gold and a Mercedes SLK.

Those with winning numbers in the platinum series will win Dh2 million in cash and a Mercedes Benz S500.

“A limited number of entries will be accepted in each draw; Golden Millionaire draws will be conducted after every 2,500 registered entries and each Platinum Millionaire draw will be conducted after every 4,500 entries received," Tahlak added.


India again defers plan to attest job offer letters

DUBAI — 16 June: The proposed move by the Indian government to introduce mandatory attestation for the job offer letters issued by companies for semi-skilled and skilled workers by the foreign missions of the respective countries, will be deferred second time due to logistical reasons. The mandatory attestation system will not be implemented by July 1 as the government announced earlier, your favourite No 1 newspaper Khaleej Times has learnt.

The Indian government last year had announced that the mandatory attestation system will be introduced by January this year, but deferred it to July 1 due to logistical reasons. The move was aimed to safeguard the rights of the Indian workforce abroad. Speaking  to Khaleej Times, a source from the Indian Consulate, Dubai said: “We did not get any confirmation from the government so far.

Currently, we are handling about 7,000 attestations of job offer letters of unskilled workers. When the government insists on mandatory attestation for semi-skilled and skilled workers, we will need more staff and other logistics to meet the needs. With the existing facilities, the consulate cannot handle all the attestations. The Indian government did not give any instructions to us,” the source added.

When the officials in New Delhi were contacted, a reliable source at the Ministry of Overseas Affairs, New Delhi, said: “The ‘logistical reasons’ delaying the implementation of mandatory attestation for semi-skilled and skilled workers is mysterious. For the Indian government to facilitate the logistics is not a big deal. When the system was announced, the recruitment agents were pressurising the government.”

“I think the mandatory attestation of the job offer letters can prevent unscrupulous agents from indulging in labour malpractices. The system will help the labourers make sure the offer is genuine before they leave their country,” the source added. “The existing rule insists on mandatory attestation of job offer letters for only unskilled workers. But the recruiting agents are including the unskilled workers in the category of semi-skilled and skilled categories to avoid the attestation rule. If the new rule is implemented, they cannot carry out this practice,” he disclosed.



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